Bid writing: Tips on writing a winning grant bid

School income generation expert Justin Smith has five tips to create a successful grant bid

School income generation expert Justin Smith has five tips to create a successful grant bid...

Grants and trusts remain incredibly popular with schools as they seek funds for infrastructure developments around their site or look to support the delivery of new initiatives and projects for pupils. Grant funding can vary in size of course, and each of the 5,000-plus funders in the UK will have their own specific awarding criteria.

Once you’ve selected eligible funders to approach, using the FundEd grants database, you can begin to craft your project narrative. Successful fundraisers are, to a large degree, fabulous storytellers – after all, you’re attempting to persuade a potential donor or benefactor to get behind your idea. With that in mind, here are the key points to consider when you’re writing a funding proposal.

1 Align your proposal to the funder’s aims

Make sure you’ve carefully read the criteria and ambitions of the funder. Many have updated their awarding criteria since the Covid-19 pandemic, and others have begun to focus on addressing the current cost of living crisis. Even if you’re familiar with the awarding body, take time to go back to their website and double check the current priorities. These do change over time as funders look to adapt to the needs of communities and address new challenges. You’ll need to accommodate those changes and ensure your application meets the new criteria.

If you feel you’re struggling to make a case, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the grant funder. More often than not they’ll welcome your call and provide really useful advice. They may even suggest other grant options if they feel their programmes are not suitable.

2 Think about your use of language

You need to strike the right balance between stating hard facts and articulating your message in an emotive and engaging way. One of the reasons charitable bodies are so successful is their ability to engage on an emotional level, using images, statistics and a compelling storyline. The education sector is of course very different, not least because it is largely state funded, but there are lessons we can learn.

Give thought to the words you use and put yourself in the shoes of the funder. Why should they support you over someone else? Many grant funders are oversubscribed so they have to make tough decisions on which projects to put their money behind. Use positive language and avoid ambiguity. Don’t make false claims but be confident in what you’re doing and the impact you can have. Pilot projects can help enormously as they offer an insight into what may be achieved when the initiative is scaled up.

3 Involve your beneficiaries

Your beneficiaries, most of the time, are going to be your pupils and if you can demonstrate they have helped shape your project then this sits very well with potential funders. Many grant providers, especially the National Lottery Heritage Fund, want to see how involved beneficiaries are in your proposals.

So, if you’re looking for funding to improve your play areas then make sure your pupils have had a say in what equipment you’re going to buy and how the playground is designed. Take photos of the children meeting a potential supplier in school and exploring some of the equipment options. Or you could conduct a survey allowing pupils and parents/carers to feed back on their ideas and reasoning. This helps demonstrate to a funder that you’re working together to develop a solution to a clearly identified problem.

4 Demonstrate the need

An absolutely critical aspect of any proposal is the way you go about proving the validity of the project. Why is it needed and what evidence do you have? So called ‘nice to have’ projects are unlikely to receive support so you’ll need to focus very clearly on how you demonstrate the need. Video and photographs are very useful as they enable you to physically show what the problem is, and many funders these days have enabled files to be uploaded onto their application portals.

It might be an idea to offer suggestions as to what you cannot do now but could do once funding is in place and the project is delivered. You’ll also need to show that you’ve done all you can yourselves but need a little help to get things over the line. Some grants will cover all the costs but many will expect some sort of contribution, so it’s wise to set out what you’ve done to raise funds.

5 Demonstrate the impact

When I secured National Lottery funding for computers, furniture and the redecoration of a classroom in a school, the application was focused on the need for a Basic Skills Beginners IT Club for local people. We didn’t make everything about the need for desks and computers, we focused on the impact and outcomes.

Remember that grant-awarding bodies are accountable to their trustees – they have to show they have supported organisations who meet their priorities, offer value for money, are ethically sound and deliver on the outcomes. Make sure you are clear about this – how are you going to measure the impact? You could look at quantitative measurements (data, numbers) and/or qualitative measurements (surveys, interviews). Either way, think about how the lives of your beneficiaries will be improved and make sure this can be measured and stated clearly on your application form.

Further advice

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